1972 marked a decisive turning point in the history of modern horology. There is a before and after the Royal Oak. The advent 40 years ago of this prestige sports watch representing a complete break with traditional watchmaking codes would result in a complete paradigm shift. A prestigious extra-thin mechanical movement housed inside a steel case and sold for the price of a gold watch: the challenge was daring enough to ensure that very few observers would have been prepared to wager on the success of this unconventional watch designed by Gérald Genta for Audemars Piguet at presented at the Basel Fair in the spring of 1972. The judicious nature of this approach has however been unequivocally confirmed over the past 40 years. Not only is the Royal Oak still a success, but it is more vibrantly alive than ever, as is eloquently confirmed by the Openworked Extra-Thin Royal Oak. This platinum anniversary edition is issued in a 40-piece limited series.
A closer look at the Openworked Extra-Thin Royal Oak celebrating the 40th
anniversary reveals that it epitomises the history of this legendary collection as well as that of Audemars Piguet itself, and of the countless skills cultivated within the Manufacture. As a specialist of extra-thin movements, the Manufacture in Le Brassus naturally chose this horological “complication” to equip the first Royal Oak in 1972. The famous Calibre 2121, one of the world’s thinnest mechanical selfwinding movements at just 3.05 mm thick, thus became the beating heart of the very first versions of the Royal Oak.
Associating within a single timepiece the constraints implied by extra-thin movements with the stringent demands of openworking represents a truly impressive feat. This distinctive form of expertise, involving engraving and hollowing a movement as much as possible in order to give it a light, airy nature creating a delightfully transparent effect, is indeed an art still mastered today by only a select circle of craftsmen. That is exactly what is on display in the new Openworked Extra-Thin Royal Oak watch, presented for the collection’s 40th
anniversary in a 40-piece platinum limited edition.
The extra-thin selfwinding Manufacture Calibre 5122 powering this anniversary model stems from a truly spectacular process, since this 3.05 mm thick movement is entirely openworked, even including its suspended barrel. In addition to the openworking performed in an extremely modern spirit, the anthracite colour achieved by galvanic treatment gives it a resolutely contemporary appearance. All the finishing operations on the bridges and mainplate (polishing, satin-brushing, circular satin-brushing and drawn file strokes) are all done by hand. The monobloc oscillating weight, entirely made of 22-carat gold, is embossed with the inscription “AP Royal Oak 1972-2012”. Its external segment is adorned with a “tapisserie” motif echoing the characteristic pattern of the dials in the Royal Oak collection.
The openworked slate grey dial provides a stunning view of the skeletonised Calibre 5122. The date disc is made of sapphire so as to preserve the transparent nature of this movement, and features transferred black numerals. The date of the current day is revealed against the grey background of the metallised sapphire date window adorned with hand-drawn file strokes.
To celebrate the 40th
anniversary of the first high-end steel watch in due style, the Openworked Extra-Thin Royal Oak model introduced in 2012 naturally reflects the powerful aesthetic codes that have contributed to the lasting impression on collective memory that has been made by this collection. These notably include the octagonal bezel and its eight polished hexagonal screws – still made of white gold – secured on the back by eight bolts. Between the bezel and the case, the visible gasket inspired by historical diver’s helmets remains a distinctive characteristic of this collection. Moreover, the Royal Oak also owes its reputation to its case seamlessly integrated – a rare occurrence in 1972 – with a tapering-type bracelet composed of non-identical links arranged in diminishing order. These signature features that have been an integral part of the collection since its origins continue to appear in all the contemporary Royal Oak models, including of course the Openworked Extra-Thin Royal Oak.
The 39 mm diameter of this Openworked Extra-Thin Royal Oak is identical to that of the 1972 Royal Oak. Considered outsized at the time, it contributed to shaping the trend for larger watches and now represents a medium size. The platinum case is water-resistant to 50 metres and fitted with a glareproofed sapphire crystal and caseback, offering fascinating views of all the subtle details and decorations of the movement. The new folding clasp distinguished by a double-safety fastening system is also made of platinum.
The Openworked Extra-Thin Royal Oak model reinterprets the original codes and values of the collection, while effectively transcending them. This engraved and numbered model conveying a legendary history is issued in a 40-piece limited series. It is the visible expression of the evolution that has transformed an avant-garde watch into a truly iconic model.